Sydney, Australia, Feb 20 (EFE).- At least 2,200 people remain unaccounted for in New Zealand a week after Cyclone Gabrielle slammed the North Island leaving at least 11 dead, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said on Monday.
Authorities are busy trying to find these people while emergency services work to restore power to some 15,000 homes and fix internet and telephone connections.
At a press conference in Wellington, Hipkins said police have been able to contact 4,260 people of the 6,517 who remained unaccounted for, and those are safe.
So far, the number of deaths stands at 11, among them a girl and two volunteer firefighters, although authorities warn that this figure could increase as they finally access isolated areas – especially in Hawke’s Bay region – as floodwaters recede.
Deployed emergency teams also continue with the clean-up, repair and reconstruction tasks following the disaster, which the country’s authorities link to climate change.
“While the full impacts of the cyclone continue to be assessed, it’s clear that the damage is significant and on a scale not seen in New Zealand for at least a generation,” Hipkins said.
The New Zealand government on Monday announced a fund of NZ$250 million ($156 million) for the repair and rebuilding of roads, many of which have been washed away, blocked or completely severed, and another of NZ$50 million in aid for affected businesses and workers in the primary sector.
“The devastation that has seen some growers lose all their crops sits alongside other producers anxious to get their goods to market. Transport links are essential to be able to do this,” finance minister and new cyclone recovery minister Grant Robertson said.
According to the New Zealand public broadcaster TVNZ, some dairy farmers have been forced to dump thousands of liters of milk due to the inability of tankers to get in because of road damage.
Cyclone Gabrielle made landfall on the North Island on Feb. 12, and last Tuesday the New Zealand government declared a national emergency in several affected regions spanning most of the North Island, including Auckland, the largest city in the country. EFE